Engaging Your Older Donors


Your list of top prospects almost certainly includes a number of donors who are of retirement age.  And it’s a foregone conclusion that you should have a detailed plan for each person to ask them for their annual gift, a major multi-year gift, and a legacy gift.  But we also know that retired people can lose the feeling of being engaged, vital, and active.  Most likely their phone has stopped ringing, the invitations have declined, and interest in their professional accomplishments has waned.

Here are a few ideas about strategies to meaningfully engage your older prospects:

  • Ask for their time, and give them your time. Seniors have more time than working people.  Plan on spending time with them.  Invite them to lunch or to dinner.  Invite their spouse too, as appropriate.
  • Give them your attention. Listen to their ideas about your organization.  Invite them to tell their story about their professional life and their involvement with your charity.  Find out as much as you can about their commitment, their passion, and their priorities for your organization.
  • Consider them for an active role. Feel them out for an advisory board, a committee, or a short-term project task force.  Remember that they are retired, not dead!  Let them know that you need their support and engage them in a conversation about what that might look like.  This kind of engagement is especially meaningful if you can draw on the expertise they earned in their professional life, such as asking a retired lawyer to serve on your planned giving advisory council.
  • Ask them to connect you with others. Their contacts can be of value to your charity.  Think about whether it might be right to ask them to host an event at their home or their club, and use the occasion to broaden your network of support.  Donors with a home in Florida or Arizona might open their home to your organization in the winter months!  Bring your CEO and get on a plane to tell your story to a new population, and enjoy time with your senior prospects in their happy place.
  • Pay special attention to how your thank them. Thank your retired donors in multiple ways.  Send a handwritten note; send flowers or appropriate gift.  Call them and talk about what a nice time you had when you got together.  Share some photos if you have them.

Give your senior prospects special attention.  You’ll enjoy it as much as they will, and your charity will benefit in ways you cannot imagine.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Are You Engaging?


I was presenting to the Board of Directors for one of my clients last week and the takeaway for the Board members was “engagement”.  Later in the week, I was with a different client, one which is preparing for a campaign.  The highlight of that conversation?  Engagement.  So…how are you engaging with your constituents?

Whether they are Board members, donors, volunteers, staff members, even clients or program participants, identifying ways in which to truly and authentically engage with your constituents is critical to the success of your organization.  While I am confident you know how to do this, here are some questions for you to consider asking next time you are engaged with someone close to your organization.

  • How did you get introduced to (agency name)?
  • Why do you choose to spend your time working with/volunteering for (agency name)?
  • What does (agency name) mean to you?
  • Tell me your (agency name) story.
  • What is your favorite (agency name) story?
  • How has (agency name) impacted you or someone you know?

These questions are great conversation starters.  Even if you have heard a story before, you may learn something new about that person.  And, by being a good listener, you will remind that person of the importance of your organization’s mission, thus increasing their level of engagement and commitment.  Make it a point to ask at least one person a question about their relationship with your organization this week.  Have fun!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Keeping your donors engaged and inspired


As of this writing, we have only experienced 2018 for just a few short weeks, and yet, much has transpired in the world. We’ve seen more controversy in US politics, feel deeply saddened about all that our Olympic women’s gymnastics team members have endured, and, watched, cried and prayed for all those that have been affected by the catastrophic mud slides in California. Yet, while there is much in the news and our world to be concerned about, there are also good things happening.

The stories of the survivors of the natural disasters in California and the heroic tales of those that work to make sure that people and their pets that are rescued and returned to their families. The images of the marches and movements all across our country that show that Americans – men and women – have the freedom to share their voices and stand their ground on whatever issues they feel are important. The Olympic athletes that will continue to pursue their dreams in spite of what they have endured…to bravely carry on.

I think about all of these things in our news and in our world and I know that many of the not for profit agencies in which we work help people to be their best. Perhaps we work for a community mental health agency that can provide the counseling needed to help those that have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Maybe it’s an organization that works as a think tank to produce ideas about different ways of doing things – things like health care delivery, immigration policies, education and other important ideals that are critical to all of us. Or, an agency that provides relief when disaster strikes.

WE are critical in this picture because we help raise the money to support these important missions that impact the lives of many. It’s our job to work hard every day to connect new donors and to maintain and enhance the relationships with current friends so that our missions remain strong to do the important work the organization intends to carry out. It’s up to us and our teams to ensure our current donors are kept in the loop so that they feel a part of our vision. It’s also our job to engage new folks by sharing our story in a way that resonates with them so that they too, want to become more involved.

As we move into 2018, develop a simple plan to keep your key donors engaged and new donors energized about your mission. Every month, determine which donors need to hear from you in person…who can you send an email or a stewardship report to that highlights some wins or key objectives that you plan to tackle in 2018.

For new donors, what is your plan to keep them engaged and involved? What news can you share? Do you have photos to share that can showcase first-hand how your programs help people in need? By developing a systematic stewardship plan, you will stay on track to ensure that your pool of donors are there, right by your side. Give them the reasons that they want to roll up their sleeves to help people that you serve or the policies that you are trying to change to reflect our very best for the world.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Making Connections


Have you heard that the secret to success lies in the very thing you’re avoiding? I’ve found this to be true and it applies to our personal lives as well as the development process.

Often our clients hesitate to pick up the phone and connect with their donors. “Oh, I’ll see them next month, or maybe I’ll just send an email instead. After all, they’re busy.” But that’s not creating true intimacy – and I don’t mean the type of intimacy that happens under the mistletoe. I mean intimacy of really talking with someone and making a connection.

So here are some thoughts that may help when you find yourself feeling so far out of your comfort zone that you reach for the safety of a computer mouse instead of reaching out in a personal way to really connect with your donors:

  1. You have 2 ears and one mouth use them accordingly –So many times, we listen with the purpose of determining what our response will be rather than truly hearing the person. This puts a lot of pressure on us. What will we talk about? What will I say? But the fact is that good conversationalists are actually good listeners, not good talkers. In fact, the 80/20 rule dictates that good communication is about spending a majority of your time listening and minority of your time talking.
  2. Ask “power” questions. These are open ended questions that are relevant for your organization. Some examples include, “How did you first get involved with…..” “What are your thoughts about how we are doing….” “Is there anything else we should know about ……” Good conversationalists ask relevant, thoughtful questions and then really listen to the responses.
  3. When you ask for money, you are not asking for yourself. Everyone can feel awkward asking for someone’s time or financial support. We don’t want to appear that we always have our hands out. But we need to remember that we are not asking for us. We are asking for others. We all raise money for important missions that help others who may be less fortunate. Keep their faces in mind when you ask.  You are their advocate.

So I challenge you to start today. Make three connections this week that you otherwise might just avoid.  All you really need to start with is “Happy Holidays, I was thinking of you.”

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are Your Letting Donors Kick the Tires?


Think back to the last time you bought a car. Was it from a dealership, or the used car lot down the street? You probably took it for a test drive – and had an opportunity to “kick the tires” as my dad used to say.

These steps are important. We want to inspect our new investment and make sure it meets expectations before making a big commitment.

But, are we providing this same opportunity to donors of our organizations?

One of my client’s was struggling with this.  We found it difficult to share the mission of this organization with donors unless it was through videos or photos.  These 3rd party vehicles are “OK” but not ideal. So we created a different approach and put the donor in the driver’s seat.

We invited donors to a special art class just for them that was sprinkled with a few of the agency’s clients for a meet and greet. This was the same type of programming our clients were involved with each week.

We filled the room with new donors and donor prospects. We didn’t charge them and provided light snacks. They were led by our instructor and learned how professional and well run the class was. They observed how each person’s experience was unique and tailored to them. This fun, low pressure introduction laid the groundwork for developing these relationships further and opened the door to conversations about future giving.

Could this experience be replicated at your organization?

For educators, could your donors get reserved seats to a graduation ceremony? For nonprofits focused on literacy, could donor attend a book presentation ceremony for students? For health organizations, could your donors visit one of your doctors for their annual check-up?

Think for a minute about what your donor might respond to and give them that opportunity.  After all, we are asking for them to invest in us. We should give them an opportunity to kick the tires, shouldn’t we?

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What are your SWOTs???


Early on in my career I received some good advice. My supervisor asked me to put together a Development Plan for the new fiscal year. Being new to the organization, I asked where the plan from the previous year was located.

Why? She asked.

Well, so I know where to start, I replied.

She told me she wanted to start with a SWOT analysis. At the next Development Committee meeting we took time to get feedback from our trusted volunteers. They shared what they thought were the organization’s Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We shared our own insights as staff.

From that conversation, the Development Plan was born. It wasn’t a “save as” document where fiscal years were updated but strategies remained the same.

Instead a variety of new topics emerged and rose to the top. Even  better, we involved our volunteers in the process. They shared openly and had buy in with the ideas.

This was a valuable lesson and one I hope you will implement.

Our team steered the activities of the organization over the next year in a creative way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We realized the need for new committee members, the need for a second appeal letter, and implemented a strategy to increase online giving.

So next time are planning for your organization take time to do a SWOT analysis first. It’s time well spent.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Summer Camp Learning


It’s mid-July and I’m pretty much camped out. Since school let out in early June, I’ve dropped my kids off at dance camp, tennis camp, soccer camp, swim camp and drama camp and we still have six weeks to go!

As a child, I “went away” for seven-weeks to ONE camp each summer in the heavily wooded, hilly terrain of Northern Ontario several hours north of Toronto. My time as a camper in a cabin with no electricity from kids all over the world obviously was a positive one as I repeated this summer trek “Up North” for the next nine summers transitioning from camper to Counselor in Training and eventually to a Counselor the last several summers.

My experience of camp was much different than the experience my kids are having at camp here in the City of Chicago, however the one constant is the focus each of the camps strives to convey. With each of the camps I’ve associated with this summer, there is a clear understanding of what the end goal is by the end of camp.  Each strives to show the campers a good time, but each has an obvious objective for the campers to learn specific skills and improve on based on the programs that each of the camps is offering.

In my colleague David Gee’s blog post, To Be Interested, which he shared back in April, he challenges us to remain focused on the understanding of donors. Not necessarily on persuading them right from the start early in the cultivation and relationship building process, but by putting your energies into being interested in them first.

The summer months are an opportune time to re-focus on understanding how we can learn from our everyday donor experiences. Are we learning from our donors on their giving habits? Are we gaining wisdom from our donors on how they are communicating with us both in the frequency as well as with the specific vehicle? Are we constantly evaluating the changing donor landscape and how they may be changing their expectations of us as fundraisers? We get our news differently in 2017 as we did in 2007 so how will we stay ahead of the changing dynamic in how people donate and what their expectations are of us in how we report, share results and show impact?

What have you learned from a recent donor interaction? What have you done to learn more about or from a lapsed donor?

The summer camp season is almost over, but learning from our donors will never end.

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What’s on your $ 1 Million Wish List?


During the campaign preparation process with one of our clients, a staff member recently offered up, completely unsolicited, a “$1 million idea” that she had developed. This particular individual knew that we were in the process of clarifying the campaign priorities and took the initiative to present a new program she wanted to see developed at the organization. It was an impressive move on her part, and one that also reminded me how important it is for organizations to have a list of potential funding options at the ready.

In my previous role as a development director for a public foundation, we talked with the executive directors and development staff at our grantee organizations about having just such a wish list on hand. The challenge was to have compelling and viable options at the ready and be able to answer the question, “Do you know what you would do with $1 million (or $5m or $10m) if someone came to you with that kind of offer?

There are a couple of things I specifically love about this exercise.

  • First, it is always a good idea to have a menu of funding opportunities on hand to offer your donors in the event they either have interests outside of your current funding priorities, or they are inclined to make an impact investment  beyond the scope of your current ask.
  • Additionally, going through the process of discovery and creating your “what if” menu is a great way to engage the people who care about and have a stake in your organization’s future and to get everyone thinking about impact.

Do you have such a list? Is it something you update regularly or share with your board members and key donors to get their feedback on?

In my experience, as long as the conversations are framed appropriately (so that everyone’s expectations are clear), discussing what ifs with your program staff, donors, current/past board members and other key folks in your organization is not only a smart planning strategy, it’s also a great way to engage people in thinking creatively about your future and focusing together on how you might have an even greater impact.  I mean, who doesn’t like to dream big, right?

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

It’s Springtime… what are you hoping to grow?

Macro image of spring lilac violet flowers, abstract soft floral background

The tulips, trees, lilacs and just about everything else is in bloom here in the Chicago area. It is quite a welcome and energizing sight. And, while the natural blossoming of springtime is a spectacle worthy of enjoyment, depending on your circumstances–this is also the perfect time to seed and fertilize your lawn or to get after working the soil and planting your garden. In other words, now is a great time to get busy in preparation for summer and the eventual fall harvest.

In the world of non-profits… spring is also the time for gala season and, for many with a June 30th target, the final push to make our fiscal year-end a success. These are necessary and critical pursuits, for certain.

However, this is also the perfect time to look at our community of donors, volunteers and colleagues to determine who it might make sense for us to pay some extra attention to. Where can and should we be focusing some of our energies to help ensure our fundraising efforts will blossom in the months ahead?

  • Is there a current or former board member that you have been meaning to connect with, but the actual outreach seems perpetually stuck on your pile of good intentions?
  • Are there folks on your program staff that, despite your best laid plans, you never get around to talking to about what is new and exciting?
  • Are there a couple of donors that you feel – if you just had the time to get to know them better and discover a bit more about how their philanthropic priorities align with your mission – that they might be poised to make a significant investment?

If we fail to tend to our garden of opportunities we — and more importantly our organizations and the people we serve — will undoubtedly miss out on the potential bounty that comes with nurturing deeper connections and fostering increased engagement. So, by all means, keep on track with your near term goals. That is an absolute necessity. However, it is just as crucial that you don’t miss your chance to identify and cultivate relationships that could ensure a more impactful fundraising harvest between now and the end of 2017.

So, let’s all roll up our sleeves and get busy. And be sure to let us know how things work out for you at harvest time.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Be Interested


When my wife and I first found out we were going to become parents, I started collecting quotes and bits of advice that I wanted to share with our children as they grew up. Some are obvious, some silly and still others likely won’t have meaning for them until much later in life.

The other day, I found myself repeating to our youngest one of the nuggets I have shared on multiple occasions with both of our boys:

Instead of trying too hard to be interesting, put your energy into being interested.

 I won’t say it is my favorite quote of all time, but the number of occasions on which it was apropos of sharing over the years clearly indicates that it is a worthy reminder.  And, while I am unable to pinpoint who deserves attribution for the original idea – as evidenced in part by the variations here from Dale Carnegie and John Gardner – I am definitely an advocate of its practice.

“It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?”                                                                                                                                                              -Advice from John Gardner to Jim Collins

While there has yet to be an occasion when I’ve offered up this advice to my boys regarding fundraising, it is absolutely a habit that can and should be embraced by every development professional–and fundraising volunteer for that matter.

We all know that we should be focused on our donors’ needs and on their agenda, but how often do we find ourselves in conversations where we are more focused on persuasion than on understanding? Whether it’s meeting someone at an event for the first time, a one-on-one cultivation meeting or a gift solicitation, there is little doubt that the most effective and engaging approach is to focus our energies on their interests/stories/needs.

If your focus is on being interested, you will have a much greater opportunity to Build Meaningful Connections. As part of our capital campaign preparation efforts, I once again have the honor of participating in engagement interviews for one of my current clients. It is an hour long conversation where I simply ask for their thoughts, ideas and perspectives. The conversations are designed to learn about what drives our donors and volunteers and how the organization’s work aligns (or doesn’t) with their personal priorities. And I can say with absolute certainty, that each of these encounters creates a deeper sense of connection to the organization because our donors feel valued and heard.

When you spend more of your time listening and trying to discover what matters most to your donor(s), the odds of experiencing a Successful Solicitation increase dramatically. If we come at our donors with an avalanche of information about our needs without ever finding out theirs, we all but guarantee that we will fail to inspire them to give a gift that matches the level of their personal philanthropic passions.

For consultants and other business professionals, the practice of being interested is also critical when you are working to Engage a New Client. Our team was recently awarded a new client contract after a fairly intense process. The CEO told us that one of the keys to our success was the fact that, to a person, everyone we talked with – from executives, to Board members to junior level staff members – they all said that we didn’t just come in an make a case for why we were the best, we listened and we were honestly interested in what they had to say.

So, the next time you’re preparing for an important conversation, make sure that you are focused on what the other person is most interested in. Making the conversation about their needs and their interests will undoubtedly result in you having more success in achieving your goals.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions